Horizon League Tournament Semifinals
Valparaiso (23-10, 14-6) vs. Milwaukee (18-12, 13-5 HL)
U.S. Cellular Arena – Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 7:30 p.m.
Milwaukee. Valparaiso. These two teams are more entwined this season than the fans realize. The 17-point drubbing that Milwaukee took at the ARC on January 21st was an eye-opener, the one that led to the now-famous team skulls session that night at a hotel in Indianapolis, the one that began a nine-game conference winning streak that brings us to tonight.
It was two weeks ago when that streak barreled through Valpo at the Cell. All the Crusaders needed was to win, and they’d be hard pressed to lose a conference championship. They lost, dropped the game and their confidence, and fell out of first, then second, then third in the final week of the season.
What we’re coming at is a crossroads; Valpo, in their convincing ten-point victory on Friday, has proven that they’re ready to move past their late-season woes and get down to business. Milwaukee, in staving off a monumental let-down last Saturday, sits in the driver’s seat. This is Milwaukee’s tournament to lose.
As far as the crowd is concerned, I’d be distraught if we show anything less than 6,500 in the seats on Saturday night. We’re going to need a big crowd, because if Butler wins, a large contingent of their fans will be sticking around to root for Valpo and make for an All-Indiana championship game.
Which would totally suck. So let’s get loud, get proud, and show these punks what the fan base is really made of.
The key to the game is to stop Brandon Wood and key in on Ryan Broekhoff’s outside shot. Should Wood be stopped, they’ll look to Cory Johnson and Broekhoff to shoulder the load. Detroit stopped none of them, and Wood made them look awful.
We absolutely have to cover Broekhoff on the outside. He’s a 47% three-point shooter this year. Yup. So without covering our asses by covering him, the Panthers could be in for a long night defensively.
With Ryan Allen available for an entire game, I expect Brandon Wood to be kept in check. I won’t lie, it was nice seeing Chris Beaver and Lamar Simpson officiating this game; Beaver in particular was one who made it close the last time these two teams met at the Arena.
Hit your shots, be deliberate with the ball and do your thing. We just need to let things happen for us and the Panthers should win. Don’t underestimate the opponent, but be confident in your abilities.
The crowd, at least the Black and Gold clad section of it, would be doing the team a favor by getting loud. The last thing I want to see is a basketball arena filled with fans who can’t be bothered to cheer for the home team.
I’m so wired I can barely sleep. Good night, we’ll see you tonight.